Friday, February 28, 2020

Reader's Diary #2139 Michael Allred, Steve Horton, and Laura Allred: Bowie Stardust, Rayguns, and Moonage Daydreams

On the credits page of the graphic novel Bowie: Stardust, Rayguns & Moonage Daydreams, rather than list roles as typical for such a book (writer, pencils, colours, etc) they instead list them as (Screenplay by, technicolor cinematography, and directed). While it left me a little confused as to who did what exactly, it did make me appreciate how much it actually felt like a biopic in the same vein as the recent Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman. All three used creative license and eye candy visuals and focused on a particularly successful period of a musician's life.

The period here ranges roughly from Bowie's beginnings as a musician to the retirment of his Ziggy Stardust character. I particularly enjoyed the cameos from other famous rock stars of the area: the respect/rivalry between him and Marc Bolan (T-Rex), the friendship with Alice Cooper (who knew?), and the mentor/mentee relationship which often reversed roles between him and Iggy Pop.

Though the book is beautifully creative in both storytelling and art, you still get a real sense of the facts. Albeit, it's definitely from a fan perspective and some of the more controversial rumours of Bowie at that time were notably absent.

At the end, there's a visual montage of Bowie's life after the Ziggy Stardust farewell concert and these images were a lot of fun, hopefully also a teaser for subsequent volumes.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Reader's Diary #2138- Victor Gischler (writer), David Baldeon (artist): Spirits of Vengeance War at the Gates of Hell

In the Marvel vs DC Comics debate, I'm a die-hard Marvel guy. Except for Justice League Dark which is almost on par for me (except when Batman shows up and ruins everything). Victor Gischler and David Baldeon's Spirits of Vengeance feels the most like JLD.

That said, it's very plot driven and while I was excited to learn more about Hellstorm and Satana, of whom I was unfamiliar, I'm still not overly knowledgeable. I'm also a little unclear as to why Blade was on the team (I would think Doctor Strange and/or Scarlet Witch would have made more sense). Still, the story was good and fast-paced.

The art was decent and well-coloured, though perhaps not particularly complementary to the story which maybe would have been paired with something either more "out-there" or goth. Then again, Baldeon's style here is more humorous and a case could be made that it added some levity to what could have been an overly heavy tale.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Reader's Diary #2137- Brandon Thomas and Khary Randolph: Excellence Volume One Kill The Past

I started off thinking I'd enjoy Brandon Thomas' and Khary Randolph's Excellence: Kill the Past much more than wound up happening.

The art was great, and remained so, but the story left me confused and wanting more. Out of the gate, the themes were evident: legacies, father issues, masculinity, identity. All good. But the world building was confusing. Heavy on magic and some sort of training institute with an muddled purpose and unclear family tree dynamics. It reminded me somewhat of sci-fi which often starts out writing like the reader already understands the world but subtle world-building and context helps the understanding come later. Unfortunately it never did become clearer here and instead even the plot got lost in it all.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Reader's Diary #2136- Przemysław Zańko: Acceptable Loss

It freaks me out a little that multiverses, that old comic book standby, aren't rejected outright by physicists.

In Przemysław Zańko's brilliant short story "Acceptable Losses," not only are such multiverses proven, but people have found a way to travel to them. Don't like the current version of your spouse? In an alternate reality, you can find one whom you are still very much in love. Okay, so none of this is new to Rick and Morty fans, but it's still a good story, especially when it revolves around a man who's about to shut down all the rest. It brushes up against the ethics; is this genocide? It even draws parallels to the ideas of open borders in our current reality.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Reader's Diary #2135- Neal Adams (writer), Denny O'Neil (artist): Superman vs. Muhammad Ali

Sometimes going into something with no, or low expectations is the best. I was attracted to the Superman vs Muhammad Ali comic more for the novelty than anything else. I'm not a huge Superman or even DC Comics fan but more importantly I thought the whole premise was a bit dumb. Yes, Ali was the greatest boxer of all-time but were we really to believe he could bit a superhero?

Thankfully, Adams addresses that and has Superman compete against Ali in a scenario where Supe's been stripped of his super-powers. Okay, so still comic book dumb but not dumb dumb. And it's fun. It has a classic Star Trek kind of vibe actually. Plus I think Adams keeps the essence of both Superman the character and Muhammad Ali the man in tact.

And the art by Denny O'Neill is fantastic. It has a classic comic book look but infused with a lot of detail that made me appreciate all the work that went in to it.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Reader's Diary #2134- Sergio Aragones: Groo Friends and Foes

As a MAD Magazine fan, I was looking forward to finally reading a collection of Sergio Aragones' Groo stories. But it's probably more suited to fantasy fans and/or Conan the Barbarian fans who also have a sense of humour.

Like Conan, Groo is a muscle-bound wanderer. The similarities probably end there though. He's well-intentioned for the most part, though his assistance usually results in slapstick tragedy for those he's trying to help, thanks mostly to Groo's pea-sized brain. He also appears to have skipped leg days.

The premise and visual gags grew old for me before long however.

Nice to see what he's all about but not enough to make a longtime fan out of me.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Reader's Diary #2133- Greg Egan: Bit Players

It took me a while to get into Greg Egan's short story "Bit Players." It begins with a bizarre scenario in which the Earth's gravitational pull has altered to pull East rather than down. The protagonist, Sagreda, however knows enough about physics to know how it's not possible and that rules are being broken. It sounds like an interesting premise but something of the delivery just makes it come across as Egan himself having heard the gravity-premise elsewhere and rather than just criticize it directly, threw a thin short story over his arguments.

Then it takes a bit of an unexpected turn in which it's revealed that the story's characters are actually AI characters in a video game and composites of real life humans. The plot still fizzles a bit, but it's overall an interesting piece.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Reader's Diary #2132- Various writers and artists: The Tomb of Dracula

After reading a disappointing collection of Blade comics recently, I went back to where it all started. His first appearance was in Marvel's Tomb of Dracula series from 1973.

He's really only the focus of a couple of stories in the collection, but still much better than the more recent one I read. Dracula is, of course, the star and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it.

A vampire fan, I wasn't particularly fond of Bram Stoker's Dracula. However, he seems tailor-made for Marvel. If you think of all the powers he has, they all pretty much have their equivalents in X-Men. He's shown to shape shift, control weather, hypnotize people, fly, possess superhuman strength. He's a super-villain! (I still think the aversion to crosses is pretty asinine though- does he never encounter a lowercase t?)

Plus the art and stories were great pulpy horror tales.

If they want to introduce Dracula into the MCU, that'd be just fine by me.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Reader's Diary #2131- Jack Crawford: Ineffable Romance

Recently, in anticipation for an upcoming trip to Guadeloupe, my wife and I started watching Death in Paradise, a lighthearted crime drama that is filmed there. And it's odd to call a show where there's a murder every week lighthearted. But even those that don't share my dark sense of humour seem to appreciate these type of films and books.

I wonder where Jack Crawford's flash fiction "Ineffable Romance" falls in this weird spectrum that ranges from cozy mystery to darkly shocking. It involves a murderous couple who meet and start a romance while each having gone to dump a body. I enjoyed it and found it amusing though I wonder if it would appeal more to fans of Murder She Wrote or of Dexter. Personally, I'd place it solidly between.

Tuesday, February 04, 2020

Reader's Diary #2130- Johanna Stoberock: Pigs

Recently I read Yoko Ogawa's The Memory Police and while I enjoyed it, I'd be reluctant to recommend it, assuming that the vague nature of its theme(s) would prove too frustrating for too many people.

Johanna Stoberock's Pigs has a similar parable sort of vibe and the ending comes with many questions remaining. However, it's faster paced and most themes are at more accessible, so I think it'd be a safer recommendation.

In a nutshell, there's a small group of kids stranded on an island with a herd of pigs. But not just any pigs, garbage eating pigs which comes in handy because this is where the world's garbage washes up. They're miracle pigs though, able to eat anything including metal, glass, and even toxic waste, with no ill effects. However, there's also a group of adults on the island who are selfish and shallow and dangerous.

Pigs and islands and kids likely allude to Lord of the Flies, but this book has more of an environmental message. I believe that they're kids may represent the way most people if richer countries view the people of "third world" countries without giving much thought to how our capitalism and pollution affects people there. There's another broken adult who comes to live with them and I think he may represent those that visit such countries with "white saviour" complexes (and fail miserably). Perhaps the adults already on the on the line represent those that, while are more aware of such countries, only see them as another resource to exploit. Not sure what the pigs themselves represent though. There's definitely a message about tipping points in there as well. But with all this talk about representation and possible symbolism, it could make for a great book club selection.

Monday, February 03, 2020

Reader's Diary #2129- Jaye Wells: I Can Dig It

Seems like I've been reading a lot of vampire stuff lately, first Blade, then Jaye Wells' short story "I Can Dig It," and I'm currently reading Marvel's The Tomb of Dracula. When I was a kid and really into monsters, vampires were my absolute favourite so it's been a fun time revisiting that.

And fun is a perfect way to describe "I Can Dig It." Though it involves grave-digging, vampires, and a murder, it's far more comedic than scary. Still in a short space Wells effectively establishes the story's take on vampire lore and laws, plus offers an engaging voice.